Cnestis glabra is a small liana or shrub. Its cylindrical stem can measure up to 4 cm in diameter and is finely striated and lenticellate (having pores). The petiolate leaves, without stipules, are composed of 5 to 9 pairs of leaflets, the rachis (axis or main stem) can reach 25 cm long. The underside of the leaflets is marked by the prominent midrib and 6 to 10 pairs of ascending secondary veins.
The small flowers are arranged in fasciculate clusters. The corolla is composed of 5 whitish to reddish petals smaller than the sepals, 10 stamens and 5 carpels covered with hair.
The fruit are pear-shaped follicles with the remaining perianth at the base. It produces only one seed per follicle, which is elliptical and blackish and adorned with an aril at the base.
This liana is usually found in intermediate and humid forests, sometimes growing on other species using their young shoots as tendrils.
]The species is considered ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. The plant is used in forest restoration projects. Its population size is decreasing due to habitat lost and the invasion of exotic species.
Cnestis glabra is a toxic plant. The roots are sometimes used by malicious people to poison dogs and rats, hence the common name. Their toxicity is due to a neurotoxin called glabrin, which inhibits the synthesis of cellular proteins.